Ben Gazarra was an incredible talent. Following the popularisation of method acting by Brando and Montgomery Clift, Ben Gazarra made his film premier in Jack Garfein’s underrated directorial debut; The Strange One. He should have been a bigger star. He was a gifted actor with a natural, instinctive feel for performance and he had charisma to spare, yet he shunned screen acting in favour of the stage.
He originated the role of Brick Pollitt in the 1955 Broadway classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof but left the play seven months later to take on the role of Johnny Pope, the drug addict in A Hatful of Rain, which earned him the first of three Tony Award nominations.
Gazarra arguably produced his most powerful screen performances under the sensitive direction of his close friend John Cassavetes. Later in his career he developed a reputation as versatile character actor, starring in a string of indie classics including Dogville, Happiness, and The Big Lebowski, starring as seedy Porn tycoon Jackie Treehorn.
Anyone remotely interested in screen acting should make it their priority to seek out The Strange One, it’s a truly phenomenal performance.